Inverness poised for changing of the guard

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County GSI administrator Williams set to be new assistant city manager

By Chris Van Ormer

Bracing to lose several key staff members to retirement in the next few years, the city of Inverness did not have to look far to find one replacement.

A new face that will be familiar to many is Eric Williams, the geospatial system administrator for Citrus County. Williams will leave county employment on March 28 to move over to his new position as assistant city manager/manager-in-training with the city on April 1.

“I’ve heard a mixed bag of opinions on whether that’s a good day to begin,” Williams joked, but he was looking forward to his new responsibilities.

Williams and his wife, who are from Alabama originally, came to Inverness in 2006. He is an active member of the Inverness Rotary. Williams has worked in the county’s Planning and Development Department for more than four years. He spent several years working for the Florida Division of Forestry.

“I came into the county working as a GIS (geographic information systems) analyst in the IT department. I worked there for just a little while when they decided to make it its own entity,” Williams said.

That’s when he became the geospatial systems administrator. He moved with his division when it was combined with the planning division. Currently, Williams’ area is called Geographical Resources and Area Planning.

Through the forestry division, GIS got its foundation with a lot of applied sciences, Williams said.

“A lot of people in that field gravitated to GIS in other arenas in government,” Williams said about his career.

He worked in GIS for emergency management in forestry, such as with wild fires.
“That is a big function of mapping and being able to provide data as incidents develop for the management of the incident,” Williams said.

In forestry GIS, Williams would map out controlled burns to determine best options of timing and conditions for the outcome. He also spent time in private forestry working with GIS in investment analysis.

One of his most recent county projects was analyzing GIS information to determine where the county could situate its enterprise zone.

“That was comparing demographics of the areas in Citrus County and equating them to policies the state had set in order to designate geographic areas,” Williams said. “One of the things I strive very hard for in GIS in Citrus County is to make it more than just a tool for creating maps. The real power of it is in analysis and decision support for policy makers.”

The fit between the art and science of GIS lends itself well to the component of long-range planning and growth management, he said.

His background in both private industry and public sector planning should serve Williams well in his new endeavor.

“It’s really not just a technology, it’s a technology-based way of thinking,” Williams said. “You have to become very good at the dynamic of working with people and managing people.”

Williams has worked with unifying GIS among the different agencies in the county, such as the sheriff’s office, emergency operations, the property appraiser, the supervisor of elections and the school board, not to mention his work with both the city of Inverness and the city of Crystal River.

In April, Williams will work alongside Assistant City Manager Tom Dick, who plans to retire in May 2015, and City Manager Frank DiGiovanni, who at this time has no definite retirement date.

“I have a real love not only of our county but Inverness as a community,” Williams said. “My wife and I moved here not knowing a soul and we’ve met so many wonderful people. I wouldn’t be the professional I am today without all the people around me here at the county, and going forward into a wonderful place like Inverness that rocks — it’s just going to be that much more of a professional horizon in front of me.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer at 352-564-2916 or cvanormer@chronicleonline.com.